Combatting My Ignorance About Military Life

I just sent care packages to an Air Force unit and a unit of Marines. The Air Force unit is in Djibouti (which I just now realized is a country in Africa), and the Marines are in Kuwait.


I’ve been spending hours reading stuff online, reading the beginning of AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes from Military Service – and How It Hurts Our Country, and trying to write something that at least scratches the surface of understanding military service in the U.S. and pondering who currently serves vs. who should serve.

I don’t know anyone directly who is currently serving in the military. I’d like to learn more about what it’s like and question my preconceived notions, thus, my reason for looking up service members online. I decided to contact two groups on One group specifically asked for snacks, so I sent them granola bars and cookies. Hopefully they’ll arrive intact. The other group mentioned they’d like feminine hygiene products and laundry detergent. I also included a photo of Zach and Kaylee laughing and my email address in case they’d like to write back.

There are so many things I’d like to know about military service in the U.S.

  • Are there a disproportionate number of soldiers from lower income families?
  • Are they forced to serve longer than a few years?
  • Do they get adequate medical care, particularly mental health care?
  • Do they get adequate financial and social support?
  • Do they feel disconnected from and possibly misunderstood by civilians who have no family members or friends in the service?

I’ve wondered for awhile about how almost no one in my social circle through high school, college, and beyond have even considered joining the military. Is it really such a good idea to have an all-volunteer military? Does that entitle wealthier families to avoid military service while lower income families are forced to join because they have no access to affordable healthcare and education?

Part of me feels like every adult aged 18 and over should serve the country in some way, whether it’s AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, or the Armed Services. We all benefit from the services of these organizations; we should also all contribute. What would this country be like if every person knew that the person next to them had served the country in some way? We’d all be able to greet each other with some form of “Semper Fi.”

I’ve heard friends of mine say they’re fine with any career their child chooses as long as it isn’t a military career. I would support my kids if they chose to join the military, but I’m hesitant to encourage it. Fortunately, they’re only 3 and 6 years old, so it’s not going to come up anytime soon.

I don’t know how much the soldiers I’m sending care packages to will be able to write back, but I hope I may be able to get to know some of the people who are actively serving and at the very least help them in some small way.

Do you have anything to share about military life and service?

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7 thoughts on “Combatting My Ignorance About Military Life

  1. Mara Migraineur December 4, 2013 at 12:01 pm Reply

    You know, I was in ROTC in college (recreationally – I took leadership classes for two years, after which I would have had to officially join the Army to continue), my husband works for Veterans Affairs, my brother was in the Marines, my grandfather was a WWII POW, my niece and her husband are active duty in the Army, my BFF from childhood married a career soldier who was even called up for duty a year or two ago (despite being 40-something?). And I still feel fairly disconnected from the fact that our military is actively deployed in a number of countries. I think you have hit on an important point and I appreciate that you are willing to delve into an area you know nothing about, learn more about it, and vulnerably share your learning.

  2. Philip Basalyga December 4, 2013 at 7:19 pm Reply

    Contact me with any questions… I’m active duty Air Force and have been serving for 5 years. My aunt referenced me to this post. I’d love to answer any questions you have about the military.


  3. Mara Migraineur December 5, 2013 at 1:10 pm Reply

    Thanks, Philip! (Philip’s aunt [and her daughter] are dear friends of mine)

  4. Laurel December 6, 2013 at 9:14 am Reply

    Interesting post, Frances. I am totally opposed to my son joining the military. I do not support most of our military actions and think that the money we spend on the military in the U.S. is absolutely ludicrous. We spend more on “defense” than the next 10 countries combined! If we reduced our military spending a fraction, we could solve a lot of our other financial problems in this country. I truly don’t believe that if we spent 10% less on our military that we’d be invaded by other countries. I do think it’s nice to send snacks and toiletries to the soldiers, and I respect them as individuals– however, I want nothing to do with participating in the military. No way.

    • Frankie Laursen December 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing you feelings. I know a lot of people who feel the same way. What I wonder is, if more families had a personal stake in the military, would that end up changing policies? Would politicians and upper military leaders be more accountable and less quick to send troops into dangerous situations?

      Out of curiosity, how would you feel about your son joining the police or fire department?

      • Laurel December 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm

        I don’t want my son to be a police officer either. In fact, when I was a kid my dad basically forbid from me from doing two things: Joining the military or police. I guess I subscribe to the same values.

      • Frankie Laursen December 6, 2013 at 12:32 pm

        But fire department is okay? Or just understood to be like not joining the police?

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